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About this blog: John Barry is the creator of trAction Painting, a process/performance genre in which he applies paint to large surfaces with bicycles, roller skates, and other wheeled conveyances. With Bill Carmel and other associates, he has bro...  (More)

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Political Performance Art

Uploaded: Dec 5, 2016

During the endless nearly-two-billion-dollars-down-a-rathole presidential campaign, many pundits and prognosticators opined that Donald Trump didn’t really want to win the election. The ultimate narcissist, he really craved attention for his constant need to be in the spotlight. To continue his reality show bona fides after NBC dumped him because of racist comments. All such pundit opinions seemed plausible, because as a serious candidate he was a joke, a Dadaist prank in action.

But it took MSNBC’s Chris Matthews to really put his long finger on it. Trump’s shtik, he said, was “performance art.” As a performance artist, I’m inclined to agree.

Per khanacademy.org: “Performance art differs from traditional theater in its rejection of a clear narrative, use of random or chance-based structures, and direct appeal to the audience.” Art historian RoseLee Goldberg writes: ‘Historically, performance art has been a medium that challenges and violates borders between disciplines and genders, between private and public, and between everyday life and art, and that follows no rules.’” Much of Goldberg’s definition of the genre sounds like a perfect description of the Trump campaign.

Another aspect of performance art that is even more relevant to the impending Trump regime is the relative lack of importance of the final product. When performance artist Chris Burden is shot in the arm by a friend (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=26R9KFdt5aY), that’s the piece. The only record of the event is an audio description, a short video, and some still photography. Similarly, when Karen Finley smears herself with chocolate, the performance and its message are the art (https://anotherrighteoustransfer.wordpress.com/tag/karen-finley/). Finley is not going to let the chocolate harden and then frame herself, for example.

Trump is a master of theater of the absurd. During his surreal campaign, the majority of his utterances were completely false and devoid of substance, but the performance was perversely entertaining. The message, if any, is open to interpretation, in part because the statements were so ludicrous. To paraphrase Marshall McLuhan, the performance was the message.

But it backfired. Trump won. So what is he now to do? Either abdicate or continue the performance for four years. If so, the performance is no longer a solo effort. He’ll have to bring the enlarging retinue of sycophants in on the action. Perhaps he can berate Kellyanne Conway in front of Congress while Richard Spencer models SS uniforms. The possibilities seem endless.

Or he might team up with performance artist Anders Lund:


In an alternative universe, he could even be Lund. Anything is possible.
What is it worth to you?


 +   22 people like this
Posted by rosalindr, a resident of San Ramon,
on Dec 6, 2016 at 5:02 pm

rosalindr is a registered user.

John, I love your blog this week but for some reason when I click on the link to youtube, I go to ShopMarkCuban.com. If I copy and paste the weblink into my browser, it does go to the Youtube video about Anders Lund. I suppose in an alternate universe Lund could be Mark Cuban or even Donald Trump. Oooeee Oooeee, strange things are happening, but nothing is stranger than Donald Trump being President. Roz

 +   2 people like this
Posted by JAB, a resident of Danville,
on Dec 6, 2016 at 6:02 pm

Thanks, Roz. The only way I'd shopmarkcuban would be if it were selling cigars. I've been led to this parasite site before by bad links. Nothing could be stranger than than the narcissist deranger that gets four years/A psychotic tweeter that is likely to create a map of more fears....

 +   8 people like this
Posted by Cholo, a resident of another community,
on Dec 28, 2016 at 4:01 pm

trump is a pathetic creature...so mean spirited and touchy he's waaaaaay coo-coo...NOT a performance artist but a deeply disturbed over the top Axis II character trump is a pathological liar and quite possibly will be impeached or taken out by his current fans sad sad sad he ain't over till it's over

 +   6 people like this
Posted by Cholo, a resident of another community,
on Dec 28, 2016 at 4:05 pm

trump is not GAY it is in no way humorous to refer to trump as GAY what's the purpose of insulting the LBGTQ community just asking

 +  Like this comment
Posted by JAB, a resident of Danville,
on Dec 29, 2016 at 9:22 am

Aligera, Cholo.

 +   1 person likes this
Posted by Jhonny6608, a resident of Alamo,
on Jan 4, 2017 at 12:13 am

Jhonny6608 is a registered user.

Nice article i liked it

 +   3 people like this
Posted by Cholo, a resident of another community,
on Jan 8, 2017 at 11:20 am

Is Tom Cushing, Esquire still publishing a column? I haven't read anything news for quite some time? strange...

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